On May 1, 2011, tens of thousands of people will gather in St. Peter’s Square with millions more worldwide joining them in prayer as Pope Benedict XVI beatifies his predecessor as Blessed Pope John Paul II. The beatification will move the late Holy Father one step closer to sainthood.
Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84. His pontificate lasted 26 years. During that time, he left a huge impact on the world. He visited every continent, embracing people in some 100 countries and territories. He confronted the issues facing the people in their native lands, speaking directly to them, challenging their government leaders, often part of the crowd, to do more to alleviate suffering and hardship among their people.
The late Holy Father made seven visits to the United States, including the World Youth Day visit to Denver in 1993, when he touched the lives of tens of thousands of young people.
In his pontificate, Pope John Paul II issued 14 encyclicals, including Redemptoris Mater, “The Reedemer of Man”; Redemptoris Missio, “The Mission of Christ the Reedemer”; and Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life.” He wrote seven Apostolic Letters, including Salvifici Doloris, “On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering,” and eleven Apostolic Exhortations, including Christifidelie Laici, “On the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World” and “Ecclesia in America.”
In his column in the forthcoming May edition of the NC Catholics, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge reflects on Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Letter on Human Suffering: “Clearly, John Paul II taught us how to live, how to suffer and how to die! May all of us in our particular vocations strive daily, with God’s grace, to reflect his holiness, zeal and dedication.”
The beatification of Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday is fitting because of the significance the day had in his life. On May 1, 2000, he presided at the canonization of St. Faustina Kowalska, proclaiming that the Sunday after Easter will be known as “Divine Mercy Sunday,” in tribute to St. Faustina’s lifelong effort to bring attention to the mystery of divine mercy.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, www.usccb.org, is featuring a special section on Pope John Paul II’s life, canonizations, essays, major writings and travels and a link to the Vatican website that provides the booklet for the beatification ceremony.
EWTN will pay tribute to Pope John Paul II airing a live three-and-a-half hour program, “Vigil in Honor of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II!” from the Circus Maximus in Rome at 1:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 30 with an encore at 8:00 p.m.
EWTN will also broadcast the beatification ceremony live at 2:30 a.m. ET, Sunday morning, May 7, with a four-hour program. The beatification will re-air at 8:00 p.m. ET, Sunday, May 1; 1:00 p.m. ET, Monday, May 2; and 4:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, May 7. Find EWTN at www.ewtn.com/channelfinder. Times subject to change. Check www.ewtn.com for details.